- The first four Beatitudes focus on our need or our consciousness of our need.
- Poor in spirit, those who mourn, lowly, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
- This fifth Beatitude pivots and describes our character and disposition.
- The Beatitudes are our Lord Jesus’s description of a true Christian, for only Christians are truly happy and blessed.
- Jesus is not here describing “how we are to be saved, but who are saved.” (Spurgeon III:158)
1. What “Merciful” Does Not Mean
God is merciful, so therefore mercy cannot contradict God’s perfect character.
A. Not Tolerant of Sin
- God is not tolerant of sin.
- To be merciful is not to lightly brush off and ignore sin. It’s not being ambivalent to sin and evil.
B. Not Ignorant or Naive to Sin
- God is omniscient, all-knowing.
- To be merciful is not being oblivious toward wrongdoing committed toward you or toward others.
2. What “Merciful” Does Mean
A. Mercy refers to character, not action.
- Word “merciful” is an adjective that describes the person, not the actions of the person.
- The only other time this adjective “merciful” is used to describe a person is in Hebrew 2:17 when it is used to describe Jesus, our “merciful high priest.”
- Jesus is not teaching us that to be a true Christians, we must learn Christian teaching and apply it.
- True Christians, as Gal 2:20 states, have been crucified with Christ. They no longer live, but Christ lives in them.
- God’s Spirit regenerates, endwells, and transforms the Christian. The Christian is a new creature, and he is marked by mercy.
- “Are we merciful?” Christians are marked by a merciful character.
B. Mercy shows pity toward misery.
- Grace looks down upon sin as a whole, while mercy looks upon the misery of sin. Mercy involves a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering. (Lloyd-Jones)
- “What makes mercy different from grace? Primarily it is the quality of helplessness or misery on the part of those who receive mercy…Mercy is love reaching out to help those who are helpless and who need salvation. Mercy identifies with the miserable in their misery.” (Boice)
- Mercy is compassion for people in need. (John Stott)
- The more godly, the more merciful. (Thomas Watson)
- Illustration: Parable of the Good Samaritan
- “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him, and when he saw him, he felt compassion.” (Lk 10:33)
- Spurgeon describes the “merciful” as concerned for the poor, the depressed, the offender (extending full forgiveness) and outwardly sinful. He has “mercy on the souls of all men.”
C. Mercy leads to voluntary action.
- Example of God the Father
- “But God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Eph 2:4–5)
- Example of God the Son
- But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34)
3. What the “Merciful” Are Promised
A. This promise is not contingent on our acts of mercy and forgiveness.
- Jesus is not saying that if we show mercy, God will then show us mercy. If we do not show mercy, God will not show us mercy.
- If this were true, none of us would be able to merit God’s forgiveness and mercy.
- If this were true, we would not be saved by grace alone. The doctrine of grace would be nullified.
- If we are truly repentant, we realize that we deserve nothing but punishment. Our forgiveness is due to the love of God and to His mercy and grace, and to nothing else at all. Then of necessity, we will forgive those who trespass against us. (Lloyd-Jones)
- Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and have been satisfied by God and are transformed; part of that transformation involves becoming merciful.
- Our merciful acts do not merit God’s grace. Rather, God’s grace makes us merciful.
B. This promise for all Christians is present and future.
- How blessed is he who considers the poor; Yahweh will provide him escape in a day of calamity. (Ps 41:1)
- In the final day of judgment, God promises Christians, made merciful through God’s grace, will receive not justice but mercy.
- The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me— the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. (2 Tim 1:16–18a)
- Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (Jude 21)
- One application: ask yourself this question? Are you merciful?
- When someone wrongs you, do you always seek legal justice and just compensation? Are you willing to forgive?
- Do you empathize with people in distress, or are you satisfied they have reaped what they have sown in sin?
- Do we insulate ourselves from the pain and calamities of men?
- Do you pity those in need and in misery, and does your pity lead you to action?
- Does your heart burn in compassion for the plight of those spiritually lost?
- When we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into new creatures who have tasted the goodness and mercy of God, and we will by necessity embody a heart of mercy.